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Culture, Art and Architecture

Eduardo Castrillo, Vicente Manansala, Guillermo Tolentino, Fernando Amorsolo, terraced rice fields

During most of the Spanish colonial period, the art and architecture of the Philippines were strongly influenced by the patronage of the Roman Catholic Church. Most art emphasized religious iconography. The church commissioned local craftspeople, often skilled Chinese artisans, to construct provincial stone churches with bas-relief sculpture and to carve santos, or statues of saints, and other devotional icons in wood and ivory. The edifices, statues, and paintings of the period show Chinese and Malay modifications of Spanish baroque, an elaborate and detailed style.

Philippine painters began to explore secular themes in the mid-1800s. The painters Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo produced works in the romantic and early impressionist styles, achieving recognition in Europe. Painters of the early 1900s—notably Fernando Amorsolo, Fabian de la Rosa, and Jorge Pineda—produced romanticized landscapes, genre scenes, and portraits. In the late 1920s Victorio Edades, an American-trained painter, infused modernism into the Philippine art world. Many Philippine painters who were influenced by American and European modernism also experimented with it to reflect Philippine realities, such as Carlos Francisco, Arturo Luz, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Vicente Manansala, and Hernando Ocampo. Lee Aguinaldo and Fernando Zobel de Ayala achieved international recognition in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sculpture took on secular themes in the early 1900s. The major Filipino sculptor of the American colonial period was Guillermo Tolentino, who trained in classical sculpture in Rome. In the 1950s Napoleon Abueva pioneered modernism in Philippine sculpture. Many talented sculptors were active in the following decades, notably Eduardo Castrillo, whose large welded-metal sculptures are displayed in Manila’s Memorial Park; Solomon Saprid, noted for his expressionist series of mythical figures titled Tikbalang; and Abdulmari Imao, who produced contemporary interpretations of traditional Muslim designs. More recently, sculptors have tended to utilize ethnic artifacts and natural materials to produce assemblages with social themes.

In remote areas, tribal groups have preserved traditional art forms such as woodcarving, textile weaving, bamboo and rattan weaving, and metalsmithing. Artistic body adornments such as bead jewelry, body tattoos, and headdresses are important indications of social status. In the northern Philippines, the Ifugao people are known for their sculptural wood carvings of bulul figures, which represent guardian deities. The figures are ritually placed in rice granaries to bring a plentiful harvest. The terraced rice fields of the Ifugao are considered a major architectural feat. The Ifugao built them over a period of centuries by carving terraces into the mountainsides and reinforcing each level with stone walls.

The Muslim peoples in the south practice okir, a design tradition that shows evidence of Indian and Islamic influences. Rendered in hardwood and brass, the okir designs are mostly figurative, depicting animals, plants, and mythical figures. The style is highly decorative, with long curvilinear lines and secondary arabesques. The designs are based in the ancient epics and serve as significant cultural symbols. An important motif of the Maranaos is the sarimanok design, depicting a bird holding a fish in its beak or talons. Many okir designs are used as decorative elements in architecture. The Muslim peoples of the Philippines are noted for their metalworking skills, producing weaponry such as swords and decorative containers in brass and silver.

Article key phrases:

Eduardo Castrillo, Vicente Manansala, Guillermo Tolentino, Fernando Amorsolo, terraced rice fields, Jorge Pineda, Carlos Francisco, metalworking skills, body tattoos, religious iconography, classical sculpture, American colonial period, metalsmithing, decorative containers, bead jewelry, edifices, headdresses, woodcarving, Tikbalang, Ayala, modernism, Fabian, santos, assemblages, swords, weaponry, patronage, Rosa, beak, bamboo, portraits, paintings, Rome, natural materials, Roman Catholic Church, ivory, bird, fish, brass, Philippines, silver, plants, architecture, remote areas, wood, animals, works, level


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